Although the flying, fire-breathing, lizard-esque creature known as a dragon usually appears in fantasy stories full of elves and magic, the scaly beasts show up in scifi too. Sometimes they're apocalyptic killing machines, like the "ancient species unearthed by subway digging" in that Christian Bale flick Reign of Fire, and sometimes they're more like a psychic alien version of the horse from Black Beauty. And frankly, they are always freaking awesome. Check out our list of six brilliant dragons from science fiction — all of whom are ready to bite your head.
"Ancient Superbeasts" from Reign of Fire
As you can see in our clip of the trailer from Reign of Fire, above, this movie looked really good in principle. A futuristic world invaded by dragons who squirt really cool fire, Matthew McConaughey is bald, Christian Bale is scruffy and sarcastic, the world is in ruins, and everybody is hiding out in bunkers. There's even a hint that there might be a dragons vs. helicopters moment. Unfortunately, it was about as goofy as Doomsday, but without all the ninjas and race cars and punk rock cannibals from Glasgow. Plus, the helicopters never fought the dragons, the way they did in D-War. Still, you take what you can get. This is the only movie you will ever see that combines dragon-slaying with crumbling, futuristic, post-apocalyptic London. Many points given just for trying.
Ghidorah AKA Monster Zero
Of course, Godzilla is probably the original science fiction dragon. The Big G squirts fire, is seriously spiny, and comes into town to stomp the shit out of everything (a very dragon move). He's also some kind of "ancient creature from beneath the sea" re-awakened by human meddling (in this case, atomic tests). But if you want to go full-on scifi dragon, you have to wait until Ghidorah the three-headed monster enters the popular kaiju franchise. Ghidorah comes from space (even you non-Japanese speakers can recognize the word "UFO" in that headline in the trailer for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah above). Like most good dragons, Ghidorah has a breath weapon (lightning), golden scales, and giant leathery wings. In case you were still wondering about his scifi bonafides, he later becomes MECHA Ghidorah, complete with cyber head and body armor (kaijugasm!!!).
"Psychic Friends" from Dragonriders of Pern series
Anne McCaffrey's classic Dragon Riders of Pern book series is about the civilization created by of a bunch of humans on an alien planet called Pern. It's hinted that long ago, the humans colonized Pern and never left. Dragons, complete with fire-breathing and psychic powers, are their companion species on Pern. In fact, dragons are necessary to its ecosystem, which is invaded every 200 years by killer "thread," spores from space that consume everything in their path. Only the dragons can kill the spore with their firey breath. Human riders of the dragons lead the charge against thread, and also form special psychic bonds with their mounts. The society on Pern is pretty medieval, with dragons serving as the main technology.
"Heroin Bulls" in the Dragon Temple Saga Trilogy
Janine Cross' harrowing, revisionist homage to the Pern series is the Dragon Temple Saga, about an alien planet strongly divided up along racial and nationalist lines. Dragons are the cornerstone of the economy: they provide transportation via flight, and food via their tasty eggs. Their venom is also the source of a powerful drug that many people on the planet are secretly addicted to. Our hero is a woman whose mother comes from the outcast "piebald" race on the planet, and she has to fight poverty and slavery to finally earn the right to be a dragon master. Along the way, she has amazing battles and, um, some sexytime with dragons. Not for the faint of heart, this series will rip your brain out and make you feel strange for weeks afterwards.
Old Lace in Runaways
In the comic book series Runaways, created and mostly written by Brian K. Vaughan, a group of teenagers discover their parents are supervillains and decide to run away to form their own group that seeks great justice. At one point, the purple-haired nerd Runaway named Gertrude discovers that her time-traveling parents have stashed a psychic dinosaur/dragon to take care of her. She names it Old Lace, and it always answers her mental call.
The T-Rex in Jurassic Park
No list of scifi dragons would be complete without a nod to Jurassic Park, whose resurrected dinosaurs are basically dragons for the genetic engineering age. Excellent as a book, fun as a movie, Jurassic Park is about what happens when a wealthy entertainment entrepreneur decides it would be a really awesome idea to recreate dinosaurs from DNA found preserved in amber. They dinos are supposed to be sterile, but unfortunately nature takes its course and soon the fun Jurassic Park island is overrun with deadly creatures, fresh from the petri dish. Some of the dinos are clearly just dinos, but when the T-Rex arrives with his deadly stomping and long teeth, you know you've got a Genomic Age dragon on your hands.